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Mamaprenuer Mentor | Erin Branscom

I’m excited to introduce you to Erin Branscom who is today’s Mamapreneur Mentor. I’ve been working with Erin for almost two years and she has made an incredible impact on my company. I also love how she has transformed her business from a one person virtual assistant business to a multi-person team doing virtual assistance and marketing strategy. She and Rustic Barn Media Marketing are going places and I am so excited to share her wisdom with you.

Mamapreneur Mentor - Erin Branscom - Rustic Barn Media Marketing

Who is Erin Branscom

A Kansas mom working with her team of marketing consulting strategists and social media managers helping businesses achieve big goals.

What title do you use to describe your position in your business and why did you choose Mamapreneur Mentor - Erin Branscom - Jenn Elwellthat title?
Marketing Strategist-I love helping people market their business and achieve their goals through strategy.

What products or services do you provide?
Content strategy for mamapreneurs, social media marketing and executive administration assistance.

What has been your biggest business mistake?
Not being organized with my own business and processes.

What is the best advice you have ever received?
Stick with it!

What do you wish someone would have told you before going into business for yourself?
I wish I would have had strategies and procedures in place.

What is your best advice for women in business today?Mamapreneur Mentor - Erin Branscom - Jenn Elwell
Find your tribe and love them hard!

What is your favorite book for business?
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

What is your favorite book to read for fun?
The Bible

Which woman inspires you the most and why?
Jenn Elwell -She has been my mentor and taught me so much in the past two years and has allowed me to grow with her business. I’m very grateful.

What do you think is the best platform to network with others in your industry?
Instagram

What is one tool that you couldn’t run your business without?
FreshBooks

 

 

Mamapreneur Mentor - Erin Branscom - Jenn ElwellLook for Erin elsewhere on the web: 

Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter | Website

 

 

 

 

Want to be featured as a Mamapreneur Mentor? Fill out the Mamapreneur Mentor application for your chance to be the next mentor featured!

Business

Mamapreneur 101: Do you need a business license for your business?

“Do I need a business license?”

This is a question that I get asked a lot and so I wanted to put together some information for you mamapreneurs who might be asking the same question. While no one sets out to do the wrong thing, sometimes if you don’t research a topic you can inadvertently end up making a mistake. I think this is what happens with business licenses because mamapreneurs make some assumptions about them such as they’re only selling online so they don’t need one or since they’re only offering services they don’t need one.  But those assumptions are often incorrect and not checking out the real answers could leave you in legal trouble and with large back payments and penalties to pay. None of us want that so let’s find out the real answer.

Mamapreneur 101: Business Licenses - Jenn Elwell

The easy answer is “YES. You do need a business license.”

In almost all cases, a business license is required to legally do business in your city and county. There is a chance that your business could be the exception from the rule but that would vary on a city by city (or state by state, etc) basis.

There are a variety of types of business licenses and not all will apply to your business. You should check with your local governing bodies to clarify exactly which licenses you need or don’t need.

  • Mamapreneur 101: Business Licenses - Jenn ElwellLocal Business License – this is a license that you get from your city and shows that you can legally operate a business in the city; contact your City Clerk or License Commissioner to obtain; renewed annually; if it is required it in your city it is required regardless of where you sell (online only, in person, markets, etc).
  • County Business License – This license often is included with a city license or a state license but you should check in your area; contact your County Clerk.
  • State Business License/Privilege License – a license required by the state for the privilege to do business in the state; this license in Alabama is issued by the COUNTY Probate Judge or License Commissioner; renewed annually; if you only sell at craft shows that collect and remit the sales tax for you or you are only selling through another store or website that collects and remits tax, there’s a chance that you might not need this type of license;  licenses could vary or be required based on your specific occupation (accountants, etc) or based on the goods sold (lottery, gas, alcohol, etc); contact your Department of Revenue; more information and links to each states’ office is available on state business licenses is available on the SBA website.
  • Federal Business License – this license only applies to a limited number of markets, namely maritime transportation, agriculture, alcoholic beverage manufacturer, and firearm and explosive sales; most other business types do not require a federal license; more information on federal business licenses is available on the SBA website.
  • Resale Certificate – a certificate showing that you resale items to customers in your state; this is what qualifies you to buy at wholesale prices; can also be called a “Sales Tax License,” “Resellers Permit,” or “Certificate of Authority”; contact your Department of Revenue; typically obtained once and lasts throughout the lifetime of a business.
  • Professional/Occupational License – a license used to regulate the practice of a particular group of professionals (i.e. license to practice medicine or license to practice accounting); contact professional licensing organizations about requirements.
  • Miscellaneous Licenses – There are a variety of other licenses and permits that you might be required to have. Your local License Commissioner should be able to advise you on which of these pertain to your business. Some examples are: Alarm Permit, Building Permit, Home Occupancy Permit, Signage License, Food Handlers License, Weights and Measures Registration, etc.

“Which of those do I need?”

Depending on the laws of your city, county, and state, you could need a variety of these licenses, all of them, or none of them. The fact is, if you are running a business then you must be doing it legally and that requires letting the governing bodies know about the existence of your company. Good resources to check to find out exactly what your area requires are your local Chamber of Commerce, your local License Commissioner, or consult with a local lawyer.

Mamapreneur 101: Business Licenses - Jenn ElwellWhy do you need a business license?

There are a variety of reasons why you need a business license, the most important being that it keeps your business legal. But having a business license also protects the public health and safety by regulating what businesses operate in the state. Just as you can appreciate this as a consumer, you should appreciate this as a business owner.

A business license also protects you legally from lawsuits that might claim that you aren’t a legal entity. Business licenses keep track of your business for tax purposes and makes sure your business (and other businesses throughout the state) are held accountable for following the laws. Not having a business license could also leave you with very large penalties due when you are found by the governing authorities or you could be responsible for back licenses that you didn’t purchase from your business inception until present day. You could also jeopardize your ability to continue your business if you operate without a business license.

 

I’ll address some frequently asked questions involving business licenses in a different post but this post should give you the idea that, in general, yes you do need a business license. There are links throughout the post as well to direct you to locations where you can get more information about your particular city/county/state requirements. Or you can always contact your local License Commissioner or Secretary of State.

Please remember that I am not a financial or legal advisor. All information that I offer is based on my own experience and is not to be taken as a replacement for consulting a financial or legal professional. Remember that all advice, articles, and education that you see online pertains to a specific type of business in a specific environment and you should always consult with someone familiar with the laws, guidelines, and best practices of your industry as well as being familiar with your individual company and area.
Business

Mamaprenuer Mentor | Jenn Elwell

I’m starting a new series on this blog where I highlight mamapreneurs who are setting a great example for others. These women are leaders, innovative, courageous, strong, and crazy talented. I am, funnily enough, starting with myself even though there are some days when I don’t necessarily think those adjectives apply to me. But on the whole, I know that I have a lot to share with other mamapreneurs and am passionate about sharing it. If you’d like to be featured in the future you can apply to be featured as a Mamapreneur Mentor here.

Mamapreneur Mentor - Jenn Elwell

Hey y’all!

I’m Jenn Elwell and I run a company for mamapreneurs.

I found that I was incredibly overwhelmed with my business and being a mama to three kiddos and began to create organizational tools for myself to help me bring some order to the chaos. Through those products, I found a love for helping other mamas who are overwhelmed learn how to outsource, streamline, and optimize the time that they spend working and the time that they spend at home. From that, the Mastermind Mamapreneur community was born.

These days you can find me working on workbooks and mini-courses to help mamapreneurs take areas of their businesses to the next level or running my kids around town for their various activities!
Mastermind Mamapreneur with Jenn Elwell

What title do you use to describe your position in your business and why did you choose that title?
Creative Founder. I like including the “creative” in the title because what I do definitely involves thinking outside of the box. Also, with a number of years of design experience under my belt, I still do all of my design work which is very creative. And I like that “founder” denotes that this company is my baby and I’m more than just someone who has come along to move the company forward after founding.

How long have you been in business and how did you get your start?Mamaprenuer Mentor | Jenn Elwell

I started my business, Tales of a Peanut, in 2013 as a stationery shop. But in 2016 I transitioned to working with mamapreneurs.

What products or services do you provide?
I provide consulting, online workbooks, and a Facebook group for mamas who have their own businesses.

What has been your biggest business mistake?

Spending money on courses that I didn’t need when I didn’t have money in the bank to pay for them.

What do you wish someone would have told you before going into business for yourself?
There is no recipe for success. You have to do the work and do it your own way. You can look at other people for help or examples but everyone’s experience will be exclusive to them.

Mamaprenuer Mentor | Jenn Elwell

 

What is your best advice for women in business today?

There is no shame in enjoying work and that doesn’t make you a bad mom. There is also no shame in enjoying your kids and not wanting to work. You can do one, you can do both, you can do whatever you want with the skills that you have and you don’t have to feel guilty doing any of it.

What is your favorite book for business?

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

What is your favorite book to read for fun?

The Divergent series

What do you think is the best platform to network with others in your industry?
I get the best results reaching customers on Facebook but I feel like I engage more with them on Instagram. I network more with other mamapreneurs on Facebook.

What is one tool that you couldn’t run your business without?
Asana. I use it for task management and it keeps my life semi-sane.

What is your favorite thing about being a business owner?
I love getting to help mamas optimize their time and energy into creating a life that they love both at home and at work.

 

Mamaprenuer Mentor | Jenn Elwell

Look for Jenn elsewhere on the web: Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter | Etsy | Website | Facebook Group

Business

How I Doubled My Productivity Without Spending More Time Working

Twenty-two hours. This is how much time, on average, I have to spend on my business in a work week. And I get up at 5 am every morning in order to even have that much time. If I didn’t get up early, my hours would be down to 14.5.

I want to build a business that is contributing to my family’s income.

How I Doubled My Productivity Without Spending More Time Working - Jenn Elwell

Building a business like that takes time. And time is something I and all mamapreneurs who are juggling their business and kiddos are in short supply of. In actuality, the time available that you have to spend working on your business could even be less if you have a full-time job, don’t have kids that take regular naps or have other commitments. Our already meager hours are dwindling as our calendars fill up!What Would A Virtual Assistant Do For Me - Mastermind Mamapreneur - Jenn Elwell

With that small amount of time, I felt like I was spinning my wheels in my business. I was spending so much time replying to emails, posting on Instagram, packaging orders, and renewing listings on Etsy that I had virtually no time to work on expanding and growing my business.

My time was wholly spent working IN my business and not ON my business.

Despite the fact that I didn’t have much income coming in, I decided two years ago to look into hiring a virtual assistant. This turned out to be one of the single most beneficial decisions that I have ever made for my business. I began to outsource the tasks that I didn’t enjoy, that took up too much time, and that were easy to explain to someone else. And I found exactly what I was looking for.

TIME.

Now I spend much less of my time working in the day to day weeds of my business. I don’t schedule my own social media posts. I don’t format posts or do any of the many other tasks that I don’t love and that take away from the time that I can be spending doing what I love. Which is creating content to help mamapreneurs succeed.

And I’m accomplishing all of this without sacrificing time with my family or any more sleep! My work hours are the same, and sometimes less, than they were before I hired a VA and yet the productivity of my business is not stagnant or declining but growing.
Many mamapreneurs understand the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant but get stuck in the details of how the relationship would work. The single most common question that I’m asked when I talk abot hiring my VA and why it was a great decision for me is this:

But I don’t know what a virtual assistant could do for me!

 

The Most Important Investment That You Should Make In Your Business This Year - Mastermind Mamapreneur - Jenn ElwellThat is a problem. You do need to know what you’re going to ask a virtual assistant to do before you hire one. And while figuring out what those tasks are going to be might seem like too much effort to you, I know that hiring a virtual assistant could potentially be the most important investment that you make in your business this year.
Which is why I’ve put together my four-step process to help you identify what you will have your virtual assistant do for you. but also getting all the details specified so your assignment of that task to her simply involves sending her a file. These four steps will walk you through exactly how I detail my tasks for my assistants and you will end up with a way to convey not only what you want but what you expect from your VA.
I believe, as mamapreneurs, doing everything we can to maximize our time spent working is extremely important. Because of that, you can download this resource for free right here! You can download it, print it, and then spend just a few minutes working through the four steps before you’ll be ready to assign a new task to your current VA or hire a brand new one and get her up and running with your business.

Make the decision to take advantage of all the shortcuts that are out there and are available to you. Hiring an assistant could mean the difference between staying stressed out and always feeling behind to being back to a place where you enjoy your business again and are focused on the tasks that you alone can do. Download your four easy steps to finding a task for your virtual assistant today and you’ll be ready to hire her and give yourself some time back!

Business

Mamapreneur 101: Do you need a separate bank account for your business?

One of the first things that I do when I begin working with a mamapreneur is to help them establish a strong business foundation. The first area that we address is their legal and financial foundation. For many of them an early question is, “Do I really need a separate bank account for my business?” My answer is always a resounding YES!

Mamapreneur 101: Business Bank Accounts - Jenn Elwell

As mamapreneurs get started they are often only working with the funds that their family can contribute. They typically begin as a sole proprietor (this is the default business entity that you are in when you start a business for yourself) and so all money that goes into and comes out of the business goes through their bank account. They often look at a separate bank account as an extra step that they have to take which is just going to complicate their bookkeeping and add time that is already stretched thin to their accounting. And, legally, if you are operating as a sole proprietor under your name only then you typically aren’t legally required to have a separate bank account (confirm with your accountant or lawyer to confirm this). But I recommend that even women operating in this way need a separate business bank account. And women that are operating as other legal entities like LLCs or corporations definitely need a separate account. Here are six reasons why.
Mamapreneur 101: Business Bank Accounts - Jenn Elwell

1.  Saves time, stress, and money

A separate business bank account saves you time, stress, and money in that you don’t have to consider whether a purchase is for personal use or business use — everything is for business use. You don’t have to stress that an expense got classified wrong or that you can’t pay your power bill because you accidentally used the money in your checking account on your business that was supposed to go to your personal bills. And you save money by providing your accountant with clear and concise records at tax time which makes their job easier and results in a lower bill for their services.

2.  Reduces your personal liability

With a separate business account you reduce your personal liability (the amount of money that you could be personally liable for in the event of a lawsuit). If your business and personal expenses aren’t co-mingled in one account then it is clear what assets and liability your business has thus not making you personally liable. When your business and personal finances are intertwined it’s typically called “piercing the veil” and is something that you definitely want to avoid.

3.  Reduces tax complications

As a business you are entitled to certain IRS business deductions such as business use of your home, mileage reimbursement, etc. However, if the IRS comes to audit you and sees that your business and personal finances are operating out of the same account, it is possible that they could decide that your business is actually a hobby and that you don’t qualify for business deductions.

4.  Establishes yourself as a professional

While we are taught from an early age that it’s not what others think about us that matters, in the business world this is less accurate. Your professional appearance is valuable and will impact the success in your business. Having checks, debit cards, and other professional accounts allows others to recognize that you are serious about your business.

5.  Satisfies legal requirements

The legal requirements for having separate business and personal accounts might differ based on the different types of business entities or your state, but I always lean towards being better safe than sorry. And the majority of business entities require you to legally have a separate business account.

6.  Shows you an accurate financial picture of your business

Whether numbers are your thing or not, as a business owner you need to be able to get an accurate snapshot of your business’s financial health at various times. With a separate bank account it is easy to see whether your business is profiting or suffering from a loss and allows you to allocate your resources in a worthwhile manner. With business and personal expenses in one account it will take you much longer to accurately judge your company’s financial health which means you’ll do it less often which can be very detrimental to your business.

Mamapreneur 101: Business Bank Accounts - Jenn Elwell

These days getting a separate bank account for your business is not only the smart choice but it’s fairly painless. It is usually simplest to call your personal bank and create a business account there as well. Most business accounts are free these days without fees and if your bank is not offering an account like this then find a bank that will!

Please remember that I am not a financial or legal advisor. All information that I offer is based on my own experience and is not to be taken as a replacement for consulting a financial or legal professional. Remember that all advice, articles, and education that you see online pertains to a specific type of business in a specific environment and you could always consult with someone familiar with the laws, guidelines, and best practices of your industry as well as being familiar with your individual company.

 

Business

Mamapreneur 101: The 5 Areas Of A Solid Business Foundation

When I decided to start my own business back in 2013 I was so ready to get started and so overwhelmed with the thought of making a formal business plan that I just jumped in where I thought I wanted to be without setting up a foundation. While this is understandable, especially for mamas whose time is short, it left me with little ability to scale and no clear direction of what I needed to do to set my business up for success. The longer I spent in business the more I realized that while a formal business plan wasn’t necessary, a little bit of planning and a firm foundation were. Over the past years, I’ve identified five areas of a solid business foundation that need to be addressed in order for your business to not only survive but thrive.

Mamapreneur 101 - Foundation - Jenn Elwell

The 5 Areas of a Solid Business Foundation Are:

  1. Legal and Financial
  2. Values and Mission
  3. Client
  4. Product or Service
  5. Communication

Why do these areas matter?

Just like the house you live in requires a well defined and strong foundation, so does your business if you want to continue building and growing your business. While it’s possible to grow with a shaky foundation, it will take significantly more effort from you to keep everything upright than it will if you have a steady foundation on which to balance everything else. And as mamapreneurs we not only want to succeed but we want to do it as quickly as we can with as little extra effort as needed — after all, our strength and time reservoirs are tapped pretty dry to begin with!

One way our foundation can affect our progress is that a firm foundation gives us a clear direction. With a clearly identified foundation, you know the direction you are headed and can keep your focus there which allows you to advance as quickly as possible. By articulating who and how you are serving you can easily avoid “shiny object syndrome”  and not get distracted by outside pursuits that you could do but that don’t align with your business objectives.

A strong foundation also allows you to bring in outside help which is the quickest and easiest way to increase the time being spent building your business. When you know the details of your business foundation it’s easier to get contractors, employees, and consultants up to speed on your business so that they too can help propel you forward. Delegating tasks that you don’t enjoy or don’t have time for is one of the simplest ways to improve your efficiency in your business. But you can’t tell someone else what your purpose is or what to do if you don’t know yourself!

Mamapreneur 101 - Foundation - Jenn Elwell

Finally, having a clearly defined foundation means that all vital aspects of your business are easy to understand. When you understand your goals and purpose for your business your customers will be able to understand that with less effort as well which will naturally draw them to you. By solidifying these five areas in your business everything that you do will begin to appeal and draw in your ideal customer allowing your business to build upon itself.

How can you define your business foundation?

Solidifying the foundation of your business is ideally done before you get started but if you’re like me and skipped that part in your rush to get your business going already then it’s never too late to go back and define these areas. The best way that I’ve found to do this is to work through the five areas of your foundation purposefully. I’ve found that reviewing these areas in this order lets each area build upon the previous so that when you’ve clearly articulated each of these areas you are left with a foundation that can support the growth of your business.

Legal and Financial

Ideally, this area is set up once and then you don’t have to worry about it anymore. That is why you should address this area first. This piece is the bedrock of your business and essential to continued growth. Details that you should define in this area are your business entity, legal operation within your city and state such as licenses and taxes, and beginning a relationship with a trusted lawyer so that you are prepared in the future for any unexpected problems.

Values and Mission

Your values and mission will define your purpose and where your business is headed so it’s important to be clear about them. You’ll start by defining three to five values that you personally place importance on and want your business to exemplify also. And once your values are clear then you can create a mission for yourself or your customers that will be the guiding principle for every decision that you make as a businesswoman.

Client

While you want to serve as many people as possible, without identifying your ideal client you will, in reality, end up serving no one. You should be clear about exactly who your ideal client is and the easiest way to do this is to create a fictitious person modeling your ideal client traits. Once your ideal client is defined then  you’ll use this persona to filter every decision in your business by reflecting, “Would she be drawn to this?”

Product or Service

Once your client is defined then you can solidify what problem you are solving for her and how you are solving it. While some products are easy to find a problem that they solve (for instance accounting services) others may be difficult for you to articulate what problem they solve (like stationery). But if you can’t identify what problem you’re solving with your product or service then your client definitely won’t be able to identify it! And people don’t buy things that they don’t think they need.Mamapreneur 101 - Foundation - Jenn Elwell

Communication

Your communication is the most fluid of the foundational areas but the basics must be nailed down in order for you to change the particulars are the months and years go buy. While your methods of communication may change you need to be firm with how and what you are communicating with your customer. To do this you will need to know the guidelines that you’ll follow while communicating and what the best way to communicate with your ideal customer is.

Where do you go from here?

In order to review or create a firm foundation for your business, you should look at each of these five areas and make sure they are clear to you. By creating a business management binder or something similar you can keep all of the information that you define for these areas together and make it easy to reference them when needed. And if you want more details about these areas then you can join me for my next free masterclass on the topic by signing up below to receive notification when it is scheduled.